When I met my boyfriend, I knew that something was different; the intensity, the passion, the spark, the butterflies… not to mention the anxiety induced by the 20 or more hours a week he spends working with his ex-girlfriend. I struggled to play the “cool girlfriend” card, particularly when he accidentally called me by her name—twice!—but I’m actually fine with it now.
It means he’s cool with my guy friends, including my good-looking roommate. There are so many guys who’d wince at the thought of their girlfriend living with another man long-term. I can safely say that mine isn’t one of them. The fact that he’s part of a 100% platonic relationship with a woman who happens to be his ex means that he fully understands that I can have deep, meaningful friendships with other men—and that’s it. Your partner is supposed to enrich and enhance your life, not take elements of it away.
It’s a testament to his remarkable character. Forgiving and forgetting isn’t easy for anyone, especially a romantic partner. The fact that my boyfriend gets along so well with his ex is a sign of his emotional intelligence. This is something I find incredibly attractive. My own exes, admittedly more of the Neanderthal type, used to criticize and body-shame their old flames to me. Now I realize that this means they either still cared too much, or worse still, were insensitive and emotionally apathetic.
It keeps me grounded and gives me perspective. Truth be told, I Insta-stalked her one lonely night while sitting in bed with a pint glass of G&T in typical post-30 Bridget Jones style. I almost accidentally liked a family photo of hers and then it dawned on me that she’s also a real person, complete with thoughts, feelings, and worries just like the rest of us. I’m a couple of people’s ex too and I like to think that their present wives and girlfriends don’t have it in for me!
If it weren’t for her, he would never have dated me in the first place. In the brutal world of dating apps, there’s more choice than ever when looking for your next partner or hookup. I was married but separated when I met my current boyfriend. Quite frankly, I don’t think he would have looked past that complicated label if he weren’t friends with his ex. Thanks to her presence in his life, he’s more open-minded about other people’s relationships and always refrains from labeling or judging others, including me.
If I wanted him to cut her out, he would. It’s reassuring to know that he really does put me first. He has my back 24/7 regardless of what he’s doing, where he is, and more importantly, who he’s with. He’d drop everything just to be there for me. We have a verbal agreement that if my position changes on their friendship, he’ll prioritize our relationship. Without a shadow of a doubt. I need that guarantee, especially on a down day or during a bout of overthinking.
I get more ‘me-time’ and I’m more productive. My other half and I both work from our separate homes and it can be tempting to call, text, and play games with each other during the working day. Sure, this is nice, but it’s completely counter-productive in terms of work. When he meets her for a business lunch or four-hour brainstorming session in a local coffee shop, it relieves me of the pressure to play my next move on Candy Crush or reply to his latest WhatsApp picture of the cat. This works wonders for my productivity. It satisfies my ‘me-time’ cravings and occasional introvert tendencies. My reading, writing, thought-gathering and life admin to-do lists also thank her infinitely for this.
She’s one of the good ones and I should wish her well. For me, the ‘ex’ had always been a mythical creature that I simultaneously feared and admired. She was the one I hoped would trip up on the stage when collecting her ‘Contribution to the Community’ charity award. I secretly longed for her permanent emigration or vow of chastity. I’ve come to realize that not only is this highly unlikely, it’s also a rather toxic attitude. As far as I’m aware, my partner’s ex is a grounded, selfless person who is genuinely happy for him. I’d take that any day over the alternatives.
She’s a constant reminder of the things he didn’t want in life. Their relationship failed for a reason. They have completely different outlooks on life, from children to travel, religion to politics. I never sit and think about how I wish I’d stayed with my exes, but I’m grateful for what we had and how it shaped my present. They focused my priorities and made me realize what I truly wanted from life. The fact that they spend such a significant amount of time together means that my boyfriend doesn’t look at their previous romantic relationship through rose-tinted specs. He’s regularly reminded of exactly why it didn’t work, which also prevents him from taking me for granted.
It makes me much less narcissistic. Our selfie generation, often labeled unashamedly egocentric and vain, makes it even more difficult for me to get outside of my own head and over myself sometimes. Being constantly bombarded with airbrushed pictures of wrinkle-free celebrities and models, it’s not always easy to be altruistic or empathetic. My boyfriend’s ex is a constant reminder that no matter how many times Rihanna sings it, I’m not the only girl in the world; most of us are just doing our best with what we’ve got.
I’ve never actually met her or seen her face. I know that she’s younger than me, creative, artistic, happy-go-lucky and whimsically intelligent. I’m pretty sure that she’s beautifully fresh-faced and radiant with almost non-existent laughter lines. For now, I’m totally happy to remain in blissful ignorance about this. During my self-loathing days, I can just use my extremely vivid imagination and turn her from Cameron Diaz into Princess Fiona!
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